Autonomous car actually has driver dressed as a car seat — WTF?

❝ A gray van was recently seen cruising the streets of suburban, Washington, D.C. — without a driver.

But this wasn’t one of those self-driving cars that Google and car companies have been testing. This was … something else.

❝ The unmarked van first appeared in a video on ARLnow.com, an Arlington, Virginia, news site. In the video pedestrians comment on the van, clearly realizing something is up.

That’s when a local reporter decided to dig deeper. WRC TV’s Adam Tuss and his photographer followed the van for 20 minutes, even after he says the van tried to lose them.

❝ Tuss finally caught up with the 2017 Ford Transit Connect and peered through its windows, only to find a person inside…But instead of sitting in the car’s seat, the person was the seat. The driver was dressed in a car-seat costume.

RTFA for [contradictory] explanations.

RoboJelly powered by the ocean – could run forever

Researchers have created a silicone submarinal robot that gets about by mimicking the motion of a jellyfish. The robot is powered by heat-producing reactions catalyzed by its surface, and using hydrogen and oxygen present in the water as fuel. It’s claimed that that the Robojelly, so named by its Virginia Tech creators, could run indefinitely, effectively drawing energy from the water in which it swims..

The actuators themselves are made of a nickel-titanium shape memory alloy wrapped with multi-wall carbon nanotube sheets which are themselves coated with a catalytic platinum powder. The reactions, which use hydrgoen and oxygen as fuel, generate heat which in turn “activates” the shape memory alloy actuators. The byproduct of the reaction is vaporized water, which the researchers claim has no adverse environmental effect…

It is hoped that the robot, funded by the Office of Naval Research and in development since 2009, will pave the way for an unmanned surveillance submarine. Should such a robot ever reach the rolling seas, the nations of the world will presumably draw comfort from the fact that their robot jellyfish watchers have an extremely green source of power.

The next phase of the research seeks to energize the robot’s various segments individually, allowing directional control…

Pretty thoughtful project – the idea of constructing a robot fueled by components of the medium it functions within.

Now, how do we do this with air?

Flying snakes – WTF?

Five related species of tree-dwelling snakes found in Southeast and South Asia may just be the worst nightmares of ophidiophobes (people who have abnormal fears of snakes). Not only are they snakes, but they can “fly” — flinging themselves off their perches, flattening their bodies, and gliding from tree to tree or to the ground.

To Virginia Tech biologist Jake Socha, these curious reptiles are something of a biomechanical wonder. In order to understand how they do what they do, Socha and his colleagues recently studied Chrysopelea paradisi snakes as they launched themselves off a branch at the top of a 15-meter-tall tower.

Four cameras recorded the curious snakes as they glided. This allowed them to create and analyze 3-D reconstructions of the animals’ body positions during flight — work that Socha recently presented at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting in Long Beach, CA.

The reconstructions were coupled with an analytical model [.pdf] of gliding dynamics and the forces acting on the snakes’ bodies. The analyses revealed that the reptiles, despite traveling up to 24 meters from the launch platform, never achieved an “equilibrium gliding” state — one in which the forces generated by their undulating bodies exactly counteract the force pulling the animals down, causing them to move with constant velocity, at a constant angle from the horizon. Nor did the snakes simply drop to the ground.

Instead, Socha says, “the snake is pushed upward — even though it is moving downward — because the upward component of the aerodynamic force is greater than the snake’s weight.”

“Hypothetically, this means that if the snake continued on like this, it would eventually be moving upward in the air — quite an impressive feat for a snake,” he says. But our modeling suggests that the effect is only temporary, and eventually “the snake hits the ground to end the glide.”

Scaring the crap out of any ordinary human being who happens to be standing nearby!